Trump may accept results but never concede he lost, aides say

WASHINGTON — There is a growing expectation among President Donald Trump’s advisers that he will never concede that he lost re-election, even after votes are certified in battleground states over the coming weeks, according to multiple people familiar with the president’s thinking.

“Do not expect him to concede,” one top aide said. More likely, the aide said, “he’ll say something like, ‘We can’t trust the results, but I’m not contesting them.’”

Another adviser said that after the legal battles and recounts, the closest the president is likely to get to a concession is, “he’ll acknowledge the results and that we’ll never know how accurate they are.”

“But we’re not there yet,” the adviser said.

In the meantime there is also growing frustration inside the White House — what allies described as “embarrassment” as well as “uncertainty and doubt and confusion” — over the president’s refusal to acknowledge the election result and chart a path forward.

“This is unsustainable,” another aide said.

Allies caution that no final decision has been made on where Trump intends to take this fight or when it might end. And a small group of senior advisers — most of them in the Trump campaign — still believe there is a path to victory for the president.

But those allies are a shrinking minority, and some advisers say the president is coming around to the fact that the election result won’t be reversed. “Even Trump realizes that the likelihood of the result changing is almost zero,” one of them said.

There’s an effort among those allies who know that Trump has lost to get the president to focus on next steps. “Overwhelmingly, the understanding is getting into the president’s ear that he needs to have a strategy to move on,” one aide said.

Part of that strategy involves a message that allows the president to claim victory as the most successful Republican in decades, a force with 89 million Twitter followers and 71 million votes that is not going anywhere.

“He’s setting himself up as the main opposition leader,” one ally said. Aides expect him to leave open the possibility of running in 2024, effectively freezing the GOP field.

21 PHOTOS
President Trump in the days since the Nov. 3 election
See Gallery
President Trump in the days since the Nov. 3 election
US President Donald Trump arrives for a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on November 11, 2020. - US President Donald Trump made his first official post-election appearance Wednesday for what should be a moment of national unity to mark Veteran's Day, now marred by his refusal to acknowledge Joe Biden's win. The president visited Arlington National Cemetery, four days after US media projected his Democratic rival would take the White House. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump attends a "National Day of Observance" wreath laying ceremony on November 11, 2020 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. - US President Donald Trump made his first official post-election appearance Wednesday for what should be a moment of national unity to mark Veteran's Day, now marred by his refusal to acknowledge Joe Biden's win. The president visited Arlington National Cemetery, four days after US media projected his Democratic rival would take the White House. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
President Donald Trump gives two thumbs up to supporters as he departs after playing golf at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling Va., Sunday Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
President Donald Trump salutes as he participates in a Veterans Day wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
President Donald Trump plays a round of Golf at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling Va., Sunday Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
President Donald Trump speaks at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump waves to supporters as he departs after playing golf at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling Va., Sunday Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
President Donald Trump speaks at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump arrives at the White House after golfing Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump walks away after speaking at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump, center standing, as he participates in a round of golf at the Trump National Golf Course on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Sterling, Va. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
President Donald Trump leaves the podium after speaking at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump participates in a round of golf at the Trump National Golf Course on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Sterling, Va. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House, early Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
STERLING, VA - NOVEMBER 07: U.S. President Donald Trump golfs at Trump National Golf Club, on November 7, 2020 in Sterling, Virginia. News outlets projected that Democratic nominee Joe Biden will be the 46th president of the United States after a victory in Pennsylvania. (Photo by Al Drago/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump walks away after speaking at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump plays a round of Golf at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling Va., Sunday Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
President Donald Trump speaks at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House, early Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Donald Trump watches from the motorcade as he returns to the White House in Washington, DC, after playing golf on November 7, 2020. - Joyous celebrations erupted in Washington on Saturday after Joe Biden was declared winner of the US presidency, as several people poured into the streets of the US capital -- some of them chanting, cheering and singing in front of the White House. (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN / AFP) (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

To underscore his power in the Republican Party, aides are encouraging Trump to be heavily involved in the Senate runoff race in Georgia, including holding a rally in the state soon. (NBC News has said the results of the state's other Senate race is still "too close to call," and it, too, may go to a runoff.)

While some aides had hoped the president would begin to move forward in the coming days, many anticipate it taking weeks. For the Trump campaign, Nov. 15 is seen as the unofficial end of the election, according to an official. That’s when the campaign officially wraps up, and only a bare-bones staff will stay in place.

The latest vote certification deadline in the handful of states the president is contesting is Dec. 1. But recounts, including in Georgia, could take longer.

Officials are waiting for direction on whether to proceed with assisting President-elect Joe Biden’s team with a transition. And the lack of strategy is in part what’s kept Trump out of public view for one of the longest stretches of his presidency.

Aides are concerned Trump could scuttle the Republican support for his decision to fight the election results in battleground states if he says something publicly that they might struggle to defend, as was the case during his appearance last Thursday in the White House briefing room when Trump insisted he’d won states he had lost and that there was widespread corruption.

“There’s a sense that if he goes out and does anything forcefully, that’s the one way he risks losing Republican support,” one of the president’s allies said. “And that’s when the whole house of cards comes tumbling down.”

People close to the president said he plans to continue amplifying his message of widespread fraud in the election, despite no evidence of that. And whatever acknowledgement Trump makes about Biden taking over on Jan. 20, it is likely to include a grievance that the election is just the latest in a series of attacks on him, in line behind the Russia investigation and impeachment.

Inside the White House, there’s a push to get the president to also focus on his legacy and accomplishments while in office.

Reacting to Biden senior counsel Bob Bauer’s comments Tuesday that Trump’s long-shot lawsuits are “theatrics,” one White House official said, “It’s not wrong for the Biden team to call it theater.”

This official says many members of the White House staff are actively looking for new work, despite a directive from the top that any political appointee searching for a new job should be fired.

Read Full Story

From Our Partners